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Historic, archived document 

Do not assume content reflects current 
scientific l<nowledge, policies, or practices, 


^ i! March 6, 1940 


Bureau of Agricultural Chemistry arid" Engineoring 

I ,, , ,., .^^.^^ ■ 

Car'boh.ydrati'eRfe search DivWi on 


Candelilla wax is obtained from the Pedilanthus pavonis plant as 
well as from the Euphorbia antisyphilitica, both of which belong to the 
Euphorbiaceae family. The plants are found on the mountains and hill- 
sides in the semi-arid highland regions of Mexico and southwest Texas. 
The commercial production of the v;ax appears to be largely confined to 
the Mexican States of Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo Leon, and 

The candelilla plant (pedilanthus pavonis) consists of numerous 
slender cylindrical stalks which range in height from 2 to 5 feet. The 
quantity of wax which coats the stalks usually ranges from 3 to 5 per- 
cent of the weight of air-dried plants, but in some localities is much 

The plants are harvested during the dry season, when their wax 
content is greati.^st, and delivered to extraction plants. After the 
plants have become thoroughly dried, they are put into vats or tanks 
(either whole or cut into pieces) and boiled with water acidulated with 
sulfuric acid. The wax which collects on the surface of the water is 
removed and usually treated one or more times again with acidulated boil- 
ing water in order to remove as much as "oossible of the entrained foreign 
matter. IText the wax is heated until the residual water is volatilized, 
then poured into pans. When cold, the wax is rem.oved from the pans, and 
the lower portions of the cakes, which contain the settled foreign matter, 
are cut off and saved if desirable for a further recovery of wax. The 
trimmed cakes of wax are broken into pieces, bagged and sold. Eov/ever, 
some of the larger firms treat the molten wax with bleaching earth and 
activated char, then filter the mixture through heated filter presses. 
Others bleach it by exposing thin sheets of the wax to direct sunlight 
for from 15 to 25 days, during which period the wax is occasionally 
sprayed with a 1:1 mixture of alcohol and turpentine containing a little 
(l to 2 percent) oleic acid. 

The yield of uubleached clarified crude wax ranges from 1.5 to 
2 percent of the weight of the air-dried plants. Although solvent ex- 
traction methods were devised many years ago, with which much larger 
yields can be obtained, it appears that most of the wax is still ob- 
tained by boiling the plants in water. In recent years, the annual 
production of wax in Mexico has ranged from 1,000 to 1,500 long tons, 
but at times it is much larger. 

Unlike carnauba wax, no commercial grades for candelilla wax have 
been established by the trade. 

- 2 - 

The unbleached or sli^ghtly 'bleached product varies considerably 
in properties, and melts anyvhere from 66^ to VS'^ C. It gives an acid 
value of from 12 to 21, an iodine nujcber of from 5 to 35, and a sapon- 
ification value usually within the range of 46 to 65, "but sometimes 

The chief uses of this v^ax are in the namufacture of shoe, fur- 
niture, and other polishes, phonograph records, wax papers, and elec- 
trical insulation preparations. 

Information on candelilla v'ax vrill he found in the following 
publications: - . . . ■ 

"Candelilla: A Technical and Economic Study," "by M. G. Cruz, 
Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Science and Practice 
(international Institute of Agriculture, Rome ), vol. 30, 
. -op. 85T-99T (1939), 

"T'Jaxes: A Brief Studjr of the Polishing '''axes," "by M. J. 
Hausman, Soap, vol. 12, no. 8, -op. 95-97 (1936). 

"Waxes: Animal, Mineral, "'^'egetahle and Snythetic," "by 
Ibert Mellan, Chemical Industries, vol. 37, -on. 539- 
■ 545 (1935). 

"Wax Prom. Weeds," "by P. LeSoi Thurmond, Chemical and 
Metallurgical Pn^^ineering, vol. 31, p. 782 (1924). 

Many city, university and agricultural experiment station libraries 
have some or all of these tDublications.